In this simple tutorial we will create a realistic looking metallic tread plate.
We will achieve this by creating a basic background with a subtle shine on it. Above it we will create the metallic bulgy pattern. For the pattern’s shape we will use a simple path we’ll create and to give it the metallic feel we’ll apply different illumination effects and shades using, primarily, gradients in different ways. For final touches we’ll add some grungy dirt textures both on and around the metal bulges to enhance the overall realistic look.
Hope you’ll enjoy this and find it useful!
Step 1: Creating the Base
The base will be constructed of a simple grey layer with a bright gradient above it to roughly imitate a specular reflection and give it a slightly more metallic feel.
Create a new file sized 540 x 540 px with a resolution of 72 ppi.
Name the single layer in the document Background and color it with #989898.
Create a new layer with 60% opacity, name it BaseShine and fill it with white color (#ffffff).
Click the Add layer mask button at the bottom of the Layers window to create a mask.
While the mask is activated, set the Reflected gradient tool to White to black and apply as shown in the image below.
Step 2: Creating Path for the Metallic pattern
The main part of the image we aim for in this tutorial is the metallic bulgy pattern. It gives it the distinct, familiar look of a tread plate.
In this first step we’ll simply manipulate an elliptical path, then duplicate and distribute it across the work area.
Open the Paths window and create a new path.
Use the Ellipse tool to create a 33 x 33 px circle.
Use the Path selection tool to choose the circle.
Activate the Convert point tool and click on the top and bottom anchors of the circle. This will transform them from smooth to corner anchor points and should look like this.
(Following image is presented in 300% zoom).
Use the path selection tool to choose the deformed circle, click Ctrl+T to free transform and set a width of 30% and a rotation angle of 45 degrees. Apply the transformation.
(Following image is presented in 300% zoom).
Use the Path selection tool to relocate the shape you created in the top left corner of the file.
Duplicate it (Copy and Paste) and move the duplication 50 px to the right (Shift and right arrow will result in 10 px jumps).
Repeat duplicating the shape and moving it 50 px to the right for 9 more times.
Your result should resemble the next image.
Use the Path selection tool to select all 11 shapes you created.
Copy and Paste to duplicate.
Move the duplicated row 25 px right and 25 px down.
While the duplicated row is still selected, choose Edit -> Transform path -> Flip horizontal.
Use the Path selection tool to choose the left shape in the bottom row.
Duplicate and move it 50 px to the left.
Select the 2 rows, including all the shapes you created so far.
Duplicate and move them 50 px down.
Repeat the process to distribute shapes all over the work area until you receive a result as shown in the image below.
Now, after the path is ready, we will use it to create the background of the bulges, to confine the illumination and shading effects and as masks for other effects we’ll apply.
Step 3: Creating the Metallic pattern
In this step we will create the base of the bulges. We’ll make a selection out of the path we created and fill it with darker grey color. Finally, we’ll add a subtle black stroke to the base that will help emphasize its contours, especially in further steps when we’ll add different illumination effects.
Ctrl+Click the Path’s thumbnail to create a selection from it.
Open the Layers window.
Create a New Layer and name it MetallicPattern.
Color the selection in #757575.
Leave the selection activated for now.
In the Layers window, Right-Click on the layer, choose Blending options, and apply Stroke layer style with the following settings.
Step 4: Adding Shines to the Metallic pattern
In the following step we’ll work on some specular reflection effects for the bumps. These effects will be created by using a few bright gradients with different levels of opacity. All these effects will be confined by a mask to the pattern we created and will not be visible around it, helping the bulges stand out above the main background and giving it a metallic shiny quality.
Create a New Group and name it MainShines.
While the selection is still activated add a Mask to the group (click the Add layer mask button at the bottom of the Layers window).
Create a New Layer within the new group and name it Shine01.
Set its opacity to 60% and fill it with White color (#ffffff).
Add a Mask to layer Shine01.
Apply the Reflected gradient tool to the Mask, from White to black, as shown below.
Create a new layer with 90% opacity and name it Shine02.
Fill it with White (#ffffff).
Add a mask to layer Shine02.
Apply the Radial gradient tool to the mask, White to black, as shown below.
Create a new layer with 20% opacity and name it Shine03.
Fill it with White (#ffffff).
Add a mask to layer Shine03 and apply a Radial gradient tool (White to black) to it as shown below.
Collapse group MainShines.
By using multiple bright gradients in different opacity levels as specular reflections we increase the depth of the final product, adding to its complexity and realism. As though a few light sources, and not just one main source illuminate the tread plate.
Step 5: Adding a Bumpy 3D Look to the Metallic pattern
In the next step we will apply a 3D look to the bulges, making them look as if they protrude from the flat surface.
We’ll add bright shiny thin strokes on the upper and left sides of the pattern shapes and dark shady strokes on the opposite sides. As if a main light source comes from above and left of the tread plate.
The result is quite close to what we could achieve with a simple Bevel and Emboss layer style. The reason we instead made this manually, is to maintain the ability to add masks and gradients to the strokes, so these shading effects could vary in intensity across the image, again – adding to the realism of the final texture.
Create a New Group and name it Bumps.
Activate the pattern’s selection by Ctrl+Clicking the thumbnail of layer MetallicPattern.
While the selection is activated, add a Mask to group Bumps.
Create a New Layer within Bumps group and name it BumpShine.
Again, activate the pattern’s selection (Ctrl+Click the thumbnail of layer MetallicPattern).
Click Ctrl+I to invert selection.
Fill the inverted selection with White (#ffffff).
Move layer BumpShine 1 px down.
Add a mask to layer BumpShine.
Apply the Radial gradient tool to the mask as shown below.
While the mask is still activated, click Ctrl+L to open Levels window.
Adjust the Shadow output level as seen in image 5.5.
Create New Layer, set Opacity to 50% and name it BumpShade.
Activate the pattern’s selection again and click Ctrl+I to invert it.
Fill the inverted selection with Black (#000000).
Move layer BumpShade 1 px up.
Add a Mask to layer BumpShade.
Set the Radial gradient tool to Black to white, and apply it to the mask as presented in the next image.
Collapse group Bumps.
Step 6: Adding Grunge
Last but definitely not least – dirt.
Using all sorts of textures wisely – scratches, bumps, cracks, noise, stains – will always enhance the realism of an image. There are numerous methods and ways to experiment with this.
Here we’ll simply use the dissolve blending mode in Photoshop to create dirt layers for both around the bulges and on them.
The dark (but very subtle) grungy texture will surround each one of the metallic bulges. The texture will be most visible close to each bulge and will fade with distance from it. This will imitate the dirt that would stick around the bulges in “real-life”.
The bright grunge (which is actually similar texture only in white) will result in a rougher texture on the bulges, making them look a bit coarser in places.
Activate layer MetallicPattern and create a New Layer above it.
Name the new layer DarkGrunge and set its Blending mode to Dissolve.
Activate the pattern selection (Ctrl+Click the thumbnail of MetallicPattern).
Choose Select->Modify->Expand, set the value to 6 px and hit OK.
Fill the selection with Black (#000000).
Apply a Gaussian blur filter with a Radius of 4 px.
Your file should look like this.
Add a blank New Layer above the layer you previously set to Dissolve Blending mode.
Shift+Click to multi select the 2 layer.
Click Ctrl+E to Merge the 2 activated layers.
Name the merged layer DarkGrunge and set its Opacity to 10%.
Activate group MainShines and add a New Layer above it.
Set the new layer’s Blending mode to Dissolve.
Activate pattern selection (Ctrl+Click thumbnail of MetallicPattern layer).
Fill the selection with White (#ffffff).
Set the layer’s Opacity to 60%.
Add a blank New Layer above the current one and Shift+Click to select both the layers.
Click Ctrl+E to merge the 2 layers.
Name the merged layer BrightGrunge and set Opacity to 10%.
We now finished the walk-through part of this method, and created a realistic image of a tread plate. But the best way to achieve most from this method and tutorial would simply be to experiment with it. The options are numerous. Just look around and find new patterns you might want to imply the same methods on. Use different shapes, add colors, use other lighting effects, use different textures for dirt and most importantly – have fun with it.